Mercy Mission Draws Thousands to East Texas

More than 1,000 volunteers gathered on an East Texas ranch Friday morning to provide quality care to those who cannot afford it.

Through Sunday, East Texans will get everything from free eye glass prescriptions to teeth extractions, oral surgery and mammograms.

By dawn, hundreds of people needing dental care were standing in the cold, waiting for the doors to open. Dr. David Nichols says dentists will try to treat as many patients as possible, their limit is roughly 400 people per day.

Dentists, eye doctors and medical providers came from all over to attend the event. A group of volunteer dentists and technicians came all the way from Harlingen and brought a state-of-the-art dental van with them. Inside the unit, doctors treated young patients and took x-rays.

Dr. William Gerlach of Plano used the unit to treat younger patients on Friday. Gerlach says, he returned again this year, because he sees the mission as a way to give back.

"I probably treated a dozen people last year, says Dr. Gerlach. "And I probably got a dozen hugs. That isn't something that happens every day."

Ophthalmologist Dr. Glen Strauss can relate.

"Sometimes you can see it in the children's faces, or in the eyes of a little grandmother whose leaving. She'll say, 'you know you're really special to do this', and that just makes you feel good."

Eye doctors at last year's clinic prevented three East Texans from going blind. Overall, volunteers helped 2700 people.

   If you plan to attend Texas Mission of Mercy. It runs Saturday, 7a.m. to 5p.m; and Sunday, 7a.m. to noon. "Youth With A Mission" is hosting the event at their ranch. It's located on Highway 16, seven miles west of Lindale.

   Kerri Panchuk, reporting.